The Motorola CLIQ 2 is the first device from CES to hit shelves and one of the better mid-range Android devices we've got our paws on here at PhoneDog. It isn't the most exciting device of 2011, but it is a good phone with great build quality. Motorola definitely stepped it up from the original CLIQ and turned the CLIQ 2 into a device that straddles the line between a mid-range and high-end device.
The bubbled, honeycomb-style keyboard and larger display are only two of the major upgrades from the original CLIQ. Although it has undergone a major face-lift – both internally and externally – the only thing that makes it stick out among the crowd of T-Mobile's popular Android devices is its competitive price tag. At $99 with a two-year agreement, the price is good. But is it enough to outweigh the likes of the G2 or myTouch 4G?
Though I'm not exactly keen on the look of the device, the build quality is great. The CLIQ 2 feels solid in the hand and the hinge has a good strong snap to it when sliding it open or closed. At the bottom of the face of the device you will find your four standard Android buttons: menu, home, back, and search. The back side of the slide-out keyboard holds the loud speaker, LED flash, and 5-megapixel camera. Along the right edge, you will find the volume rocker, a sound on/off switch, and the dedicated camera button. On top, there is a 3.5mm headphone jack and power key, and the microUSB port is found on the bottom left edge.
As far as looks go, the rubberized, matte gray and chrome finish are primarily what sets it apart from other mid-range Android devices. It has a nice, hefty feel to it and although it's pretty chunky, it isn't too heavy. Weighing in at 6.17oz, it's lighter than it's biggest competition, the G2. For the price, you can't get a more solid device.
Shipping with Android 2.2, the CLIQ 2 already has an upper hand on many other Android devices in its price range. It is skinned with MOTOBLUR, something I'm not exactly a fan of, but it's a great addition for those new to smartphones and Android. It offers some improvements over stock Android like more homescreens and widgets, and it adds built-in services like Phone Portal (for managing your device through your computer), instant messaging, and Media Share. In the time that I have used this device, I haven't experienced any lag. But from my previous experience with several different devices with MOTOBLUR, it takes its toll over time. It can spur battery drain, sporadic lag, and random reboots.
With the display being TFT technology, you can't expect it to look like SLCD or Super AMOLED, but the CLIQ 2's display is bright and colors are pretty crisp. Even with a 480 by 854 pixel resolution, some things still have fuzzy edges. One positive though, is I never really had a problem viewing the screen in direct sunlight, something I can't say for some other phones.
The one reason many people flocked to the original CLIQ was for the physical keyboard. The keyboard on the CLIQ 2 is definitely a little out of the ordinary, but it works just fine. It isn't very different from any other 4-row QWERTY keyboard, but the design of it is undoubtedly abstract. At first, I hated it. The buttons are tough to press and I found myself missing several letters in a row sometimes, thinking I had fully pressed the button when I had not. After using it for a little while, I got used to having to press the keys with a little extra force, and I was missing less letters. Over time, the keys should loosen up, but it takes some getting used to.
One of the more disappointing aspects of this device is the camera. Rated at 5-megapixels, you would expect it to be roughly the same as most other 5-megapixel cameras. Unfortunately, this is not the case. There are several useful settings that can be tweaked when taking pictures like different scenes, face detection, visual effects, and toggling flash on or off. Regardless of how much you try to focus, what kind of lighting you are snapping them in, or how much you tweak the settings, the pictures always seem to turn out grainy and washed out. The flash, which was too dim at times, also seemed finicky and often fired when not needed. Though still a little grainy, the video quality seemed to be a bit better at color rendering when in a properly lit area. Again, not impressive, but it is respectable for the price you pay.
Call quality on the CLIQ 2 has been pretty good. The earpiece speaker is loud and the microphone seems to pick up really well. The speakerphone sounded a little muffled, even when pointed directly toward me. Despite the speakerphone volume being turned all the way up, I had a little difficulty clearly hearing while sitting near an open window in my apartment. I didn't drop any calls in the time I was using it, but the service did get a little choppy at times. Also, sitting next to my myTouch 4G in my apartment, the two phones were consistently picking up different signal levels. The CLIQ 2 typically had more bars than the myTouch.
Web browsing has been somewhat sluggish on this device. Load times haven't been bad, but they are definitely slowed down by Flash being enabled. Pinch zooming and panning are also a little slow. It's nothing major, but it does get a little annoying when browsing a rather large site. Scrolling also seemed a little sporadic at times. I could swipe my finger up (to pan down) and the page would move appropriately. But on the second or third swipe, the page would shoot all the way to the bottom, unexpectedly. This is somewhat common in Android, but more noticeable on this particular device.
Finally, the battery life of the CLIQ 2 has been pretty impressive. Shipping with a 1420 mAh battery, you would expect the battery life to only be mediocre, but I was impressed with its stamina. I didn't have the opportunity to really put it to the test and kill off the battery entirely, but it withstood a good beating from me. Aaron claims to have got roughly a day and a half with moderate use before the device fully powered down. It isn't the best I've ever seen, but remember the price range of the phone and that the battery it's carrying is only rated at 1420 mAh.
I expected the CLIQ 2 to be a mid-range device, but it turned out to be in the lower portion of the high-end spectrum. For the specs you get with the CLIQ 2, you can't beat the $99 price tag. That said, the device can't quite compete head-on with the G2. While it may be a nice, solid device, there are some aspects that still reek of mid-range tech (the display and the camera). While I'll argue that MOTOBLUR is the Achilles' heel of this device, some people may enjoy the custom skin. After spending a several days with the CLIQ 2, I have to say I'm fairly impressed. It's consistent and affordable.
What's Good: Ships with Android 2.2; decent battery life; solid build quality; nice, bright screen; great price tag.
What's Bad: Thick and bulky; stiff physical keyboard; skinned with MOTOBLUR; poor camera.
The Verdict: The CLIQ 2 may not be the best of the best, but it is a good device and competitively priced. Bordering both mid-range and high-end, it is a viable option for both smartphone newcomers and repeat users that don't want to spend a fortune on a great Android phone.